It’s the second week of April, that magic time of the year for the fishermen who’ve been waiting all winter to catch those wonderful walleyes. You’ve watched all the fishing shows this past winter. You’ve read all the magazines and seen all the videos of your favorite fish. You’ve also gone to numerous outdoor shows and seminars learning all you can about your number one sought after species, the walleye. Now finally, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned to use and go fishing.
It’s spring on the all rivers in the Midwest. The relatively mild winter has caused northern snows to melt. But, spring rains have dumped copious amounts of rain. It’s time for spring walleye fishing on the rivers, but in the wink of an eye water levels have risen dramatically causing the rivers to overflow their banks and flood the backwaters. Most river’s main channels are roaring with most dams gates open up and down the Mississippi, Wisconsin, Rock, Crayfish, Pecatonica, and Fox Rivers, making the normally placid rivers a fisherman’s nightmare.
What does a person do to catch walleyes during this difficult fishing period? First, remember that water temperature is in the low to mid forties (40’s),and nights have been moderate, with low temperatures still in the 40’s and 50’s. The rain that has fallen recently is warm. But most importantly, the dam gates have been opened allowing fresh water (i.e. bait fish, bugs, and other organisms) into a river system that has been stagnate for months. The fresh water flow has rejuvenated the whole river system. But, where do these ready-to-spawn walleyes go during this sudden period of high water?
Walleyes will move into shallow flooded timber and brush during these periods. Instead of thinking like a normal walleye angler does, this time of year; using light jigs, minnows, light line, and plain hook rigs or three-way variations. I take a page from the bass fisherman and switch to one, a heavier jig, a 1/4 to 3/8 oz., instead of the normal 1/16 or 1/8 oz. jig. Two, I swim my jig fast enough to just ‘ tic “ the bottom occasionally. Dragging a jig would result in constant snags and breakoffs. Hense, this is why you have to reel fast enough to prevent constantly getting caught and hung up. I’ve found that a jig made by Bait Rigs called the Slo-Poke works best in these conditions. I’ve used and lost plenty of jigs, but the design and shape of the Slo Poke makes it shine under these tough conditions.
The third change I make is that I switch from live bait (minnows ) to scented plastic twister or grub tails (Powerbait and Gulp) which stay on your jig better than live bait and seem to attract fish better in shallow water, with their flash and vibration. I’ve experimented here too, and the plastic tails made by Kalin’s are superior. They make both a 3 inch and 5 inch tail in many fish catching colors. Occasionally, I lift the jig and let it fall. The hits from walleyes usually come on the fall of the jig.
The most important thing I do is switch from 6 lb. Stren Original monofilament to the 10 lb. Stren in green color. The green color blends beautifully with the stained water of the river. The 10 lb. test allows you to pull out most of your snags instead of losing jigs. If I used 6 ib. line, I would constantly be re-tying and losing most of the jigs in my tackle box. You are going to lose some jigs and break off a few on the odd stump, but most of the time you will be able to fish and catch fish under these adverse conditions. I don’t think jig color or tail color makes that much difference because it’s the flash and vibration coupled with getting in their face that makes walleyes hit. But, I constantly change jig and tail color, just in case one of the two give a different profile that appeals to old marble eyes. Try this till you find something that works for you that day.
The walleyes are now in the shallows to get out of the strong river current, to feed since the bait fish have moved into the brush and wood cover, and finally they’re looking for a place to drop their eggs and spawn. So remember this spring, when confronted with high water conditions, go shallow, right up into the wood, brush, and trees; go to a heavier line (preferably 10lb. test ); and use plastic twister tails until the fish tell you the profile and size plastic that they want. You can anchor outside these wooded areas, or use a push pole to get back into the little pockets and small openings. I guarantee the walleyes will be there, now you have the technique to get at them!